Dipped Nails vs Gel Nails vs Acrylic

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There are many types of nail extensions available on the market, each with its own advantages and disadvantages. Whether you’re looking for dipped nails, gel nails, or even acrylic nails, here’s a quick rundown of what to consider when choosing which type is right for you. But first, let’s talk about the pros and cons of using dipped nails vs gel nails vs acrylics.

Dipped Nails vs Gel Nails vs Acrylic Nails

What Are Dipped Nails?

Dipped nails or dip powder nails are made of grained acrylic powder and are bonded with a special glue called Cyanoacrylate.

The powder is applied to the nail and then sealed with a top coat. Dip powder nails are both flexible and durable and therefore last longer than other types of fake nails, and they’re also resistant to chipping and breaking if applied correctly.

Also, the dipping method is ideal for home use. In other methods like hard gels and acrylics, you need good technique and experience to sculpt the nail. When applying dipped nails, no sculpting is necessary, this is one of the reasons it is much easier.

Additionally, dip powders are flexible and durable, odorless, non-toxic and no curing lights are needed.

Disadvantages of Dipped Nails

  • Proper Hygiene- Dipping powders are perfect for home application. But if you are doing your nails in the salon, Make sure they’re not dipping your fingers in powder pots since you can end up with a serious infection.
  • Application Process- The process of applying dip powder nails can be a bit messy.

What Are Gel Nails?

Gel nails are made of gel that’s cured under UV or LED light. They are way more flexible than traditional acrylic nails, so they’re less likely to break.

Also, gel nails are a bit tricky to apply since they usually leave a sticky residue that needs to be removed with alcohol, but once they’re applied, they’re very durable and last between 2-3 weeks.

Additionally, Unlike hard gel extensions, which are perfect for salon application, gel polish application is easier and suitable for both home and professional use.

Disadvantages of Gel Nails

  • Application process- The application process can be quite time-consuming since each nail has to be individually shaped and then cured under UV / LED light.
  • Exposure to UV/ LED light- Some people may be sensitive to the UV / LED light used to cure gel nails, which can cause skin irritation. Make sure to apply sunscreen to your hands before exposing your hands to ultraviolet light.
  • Harsh chemicals- Some of the Gel brands contain harsh chemicals such as BHA try to avoid using them.

A nail tech applying clear dip powder on nails

What Are Acrylic Nails?

Traditional Acrylic nails are made of a mixture of liquid monomer and powder polymer. They’re usually applied with a brush and then filed into shape.

Acrylic nails are the most popular type of fake nails since they’re durable, long-lasting, and relatively easy to apply. However, they can be quite damaging to your natural nails if not applied correctly.

Disadvantages of Acrylic Nails

  • Toxic Smell- Liquid monomers often contain harsh chemicals such as MMA, which may damage your health. MMA may cause allergies and asthma.
  • Harsh chemicals- There are types of traditional acrylics which contain dangerous substances like formaldehyde and toluene. Some may say toluene can cause some health problems, but it hasn’t been proven yet.
  • Lack of flexibility- Unlike gel nails or dipped nails that have some flexibility to them, traditional acrylics tend to be very stiff. So, If the nail hits something hard, there’s a higher chance it will break.
  • Bacterial or fungal infections– may occur due to trauma or wrong application of the artificial nails. A bacterial infection usually occurs after trauma to the nail, bumping the nail might cause a gap between the nails which is where the bacteria can prosper.
  • Traditional acrylic nail removal- The removal process of traditional acrylic nails is probably the longest. In the process- you should soak your nails in 100% acetone for 30-40 minutes. Let a professional do it, because if you do it by yourself, you may damage your nails.

Did you know? Acrylics contain Flammable ingredients so keep them away from curling irons, straighteners or dryers.

Acrylic nail extensions with a french manicure overlay

Dipped Nails vs Gel Nails – What’s the Difference

Dipped nails and gel nails are both popular choices for fake nails. But what are the differences between the two? Let’s take a look.

Application Process

Both dip powder nails and gel polish nails are ideal for home application. That being said, Keep in mind that hard gel application (gel extensions) is way harder to pull off as a home DIY’er.

Also, the application process of gel polish nails might take a bit longer than with dipped nails, since you need to cure the gel nail polish/ hard gel under LED or UV light.

The gel manicure application includes nail preparation, base coat, gel polish color, top coat, curing LED, or UV lamp.

The dip powder manicure includes nail preparation, base coat, dip powder, top coat, and an activator.

Traditional acrylic extensions include the preparation of the nail, acrylic powder, acrylic monomer, acrylic brush, nail polish, and a top coat.

UV/ Led Light Exposure

Unlike Gel nails, dip powder nails are air-cured and do not need any UV/LED light in order to cure.

Lasting Power – Dipped Nails Vs Gel Nails Vs Acrylics

Gel nail polish- if applied correctly, regular gel polish usually lasts about 2-3 weeks.

Hard gel nails- hard gel extensions can last more than 3 weeks. That being said, you will need a fill-in after 3-4 weeks.

Dip powder nails- with the appropriate application, dip nails can actually last for more than 3 weeks without chipping.

Traditional acrylic nail extensions- acrylic nails are very durable and can last over 3 weeks without chipping and cracking.

Potential Damage To Nails

If not applied correctly or if removed incorrectly, all three types of fake nails can cause damage to the natural nail. This includes everything from minor irritation and redness to more serious infections and allergies.
However, the type and severity of damage will vary depending on the individual and the application/removal process.

Cost And Time

Gel polish manicure- A gel polish manicure usually costs around $35-$50 and takes about 45 minutes to an hour to complete. In the US, the average price for a gel manicure is $40.

Hard Gel extensions- In the US, gel extensions typically cost around $80 and take about 1-1.5 hours to complete. You should keep in mind the prices might go up if you would like to add rain stones or other special garnishes to your nails.

Dip nails- A dip powder manicure usually costs around $40-$50 and takes about 45 minutes to complete.

Traditional acrylic nail extensions – In a professional nail salon, acrylic extensions typically cost around $75-$100 and take about 1-1.5 hours to complete.

Removal Process

The removal process of gel nails and dipped nails is quite similar. The first step is to file and remove the top coat then, you need to soak your nails in acetone for about 15-20 minutes.

However, the removal process of traditional acrylic nails is much longer. You need to soak your nails in acetone for 30-40 minutes and then use a nail file to remove the acrylics.


purple gel polish application on nails and a LED nail lamp

So, what’s the verdict? Well, it really depends on your preferences. If you want something that’s quick and easy to apply at home, then both gel polish manicure and dip powder manicure are good options.

However, if you want to visit the salon and get a full set of nail extensions, then gel or acrylic nail extensions are the way to go.

Acrylic allergy – If you’re allergic to acrylics, non of these manicures will be best for you since they all have acrylic in them. In this case, you can try a regular polish manicure or shellac manicure. These will not last as long as the others, but they will be better for your nails in the long run.

Whichever route you choose, just make sure that you take care of your nails, and don’t forget to give them a break every once in a while!

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